Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 26.djvu/166

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156 Southern Historical Society Papers.

war; ammunition and ordnance for the most distant points, were landed upon the wharves, and sent away, even when the eager eyes of those whose safety was bound up with Wilmington's defence saw it leaving the spot where it was most needed.

Strange to say, never was the vast importance of this last harbor of access from the rest of Christendom appreciated, until the die was cast and all was over!

General Whiting was ordered there in November, 1862, the place having been thought comparatively safe from attack during the fall of that year, while an epidemic of yellow fever ravaged the city and cost the lives of many noble men.

It was no longer a question of batteries strong enough for resist- ance against a few vessels, but as port after port was closed, and many taken, the day came when the effective force of the flower of the whole American Navy was to be brought to bear. Appreciating this, the General gave himself, his every thought and effort, to the gigantic task before him.

Ably seconded by the brave and vigorous efforts of Colonel Wil- liam Lamb, commanding the 36th North Carolina (a regiment of heavy artillery), he encouraged the exertions of Lamb in building and strengthening the huge Mound Battery and a line of defence on the land side at Fort Fisher, while he gave his own attention to the entire system of defences as a whole. Forts Caswell, Holmes, Campbell, Anderson and others were greatly strengthened, enlarged, furnished with better artillery where practicable, military roads and bridges made extending up the Sounds, complete topographical maps prepared, torpedoes made and filled, the channel obstructed except at points commanded by a chain of batteries on the river, a pontoon bridge constructed, batteries thrown up commanding the approach at North East river from Goldsboro to Newbern, redoubts built near the city, mines dug, and telegraphs placed in position.

But there were two vital needs he could not control the number of troops to support the works, and the amount of ammunition to carry on the contest. His letter-books show not one appeal, but dozens of earnest, imploring requests of the Secretary of War, of General Smith, of General Lee, of General Bragg when stationed at Richmond in general charge, and of the President himself, show- ing with the prevision of the great military genius, what must inevi- tably ensue. It is most pathetic to read page after page, and think how literally it was fulfilled.

In the letter-book of General Whiting may be found the following